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Dreaming in the Maze of Love-Grief-Madness
Posted by Fife, Stephen
Wednesday , December 31, 2014
Stephen Fife
Author's Note:
This poem may be my personal favorite of those I’ve written.  I wrote it when I was 18 and truly at the end of my rope, clinging to life like Cary Grant at the end of “North By Northwest,” when his hold on Mount Rushmore seems impossibly tenuous.  Every time I see that movie, I think: this time he’s gonna fall, because that one hand of his cannot support the weight of a fully grown man.  Same with this poem – reading it now, I feel like the defiance of this poet isn’t enough to keep those demons at bay.  And yet I guess it was, because here I am to tell the tale.

I shall endure
as a barnacled rock
that outlives the fragile shore.
With the driftwood found
beneath obscure mounds of dirt
I shall inscribe my name
upon the seasons’ golden sand.

Though waves of fury
flog this ebbing shore
until only barren cliffs remain,
the words of mine inscribed here
shall endure.

         Even though I walk a lonely path,
my soul shall strive ahead.
The torn heels of my shoes
shall trace upon the black dust
a trail for other men to follow.
I must be known for what I am
not for what I seek to be.
For freedom is what will make us strong
and strength is what will make us free.
And those who falter before the dawn,
who seek to rise but fall back into sleep,
they shall be as a shiny plaster statue
that time’s chisel chips away to nothing,
piece by piece.

War (A Sonnet)
Posted by Fife, Stephen
Wednesday , December 31, 2014
Stephen Fife
Author's note:
The next poem was originally written about the Vietnam War and then adapted to fit our wars of the moment.  Sadly, it wasn’t too hard to adapt.  And the reality of war is simply too real to lend itself to much fancy.

           (A Sonnet)

The men have come with guns
To defend the earth.

As villages crackle and burn,
The trees and bushes catch fire
With an almost-human sound,
Almost-human cries mingle in the air
With the cackling of flame-feathered
Crows that hover above the thick carnage,
The swirling snarling stew of sacrifice.

The men have come with guns
To defend the earth.

They must protect us from our dark impulses.
They have the right, the Lord has told them so.
And they will prevail, oh yes, even if it kills us.

Imaginary Songs
Posted by Fife, Stephen
Wednesday , December 31, 2014
Stephen Fife
Author's note:
The poems in this book tend toward the mystical and philosophically speculative.  There’s a lot of fantasy and flights of fancy.  But reality finds a way to assert itself, as reality always does.  Sometimes it’s even funny, as hopefully it is in this first poem. 


Sometimes I feel myself to be
lost upon an endlessly snaking path
that like this world is so far, so wide.

And in these moments of uncertainty
I envision myself as a careworn minstrel,
a stubborn troubadour, who wanders along
this winding way, wanders the earth’s vast
terrain, playing soft and sweet refrains –
with lyrics to soothe people’s hearts of pain.

And some – but so few, so few – will stop
or slow their steady pace as they walk by
this makeshift wooden stoop where I play
my songs: built upon a patch of roadside dirt
which I have dared to claim as my own.

Most who pass by are soon on their way –
they only hear the first few notes, the ones
in which I am tuning my beaten-up guitar.
And I cannot explain to them why I sing,
cannot explain anything – words spoken
to their flapping heels, leaving clouds 
of dust behind them.  They never stay 
to hear my songs of distant dust clouds.
And their tracks upon this well-worn path
are soon erased by whimsical gusts of wind,
their footsteps disappear for me when they reach
the winding curve, and they don’t come back.   

Yes, there are those who stay a little longer,
but oh so few, so few who really care to hear.
They stand head-cocked to one side for a few
moments, listening – or perhaps pretending to.
And then they walk away, unsure if what they’ve 
heard is what they wanted, unsure if any melody 
can really ease the restlessness they feel inside.

And I, strumming my knockabout guitar,
warbling the gentle notes of my roadside songs,
will never please them.  But I would not change
the words or notes, even if I thought I could.
The songs swell within me, they sing themselves.
These people have never really heard my music,
only the songs that they wanted mine to be.

To all who leave I bid a fond farewell, even if
they don’t hear my parting words, submerged in
thoughts, so deep in thoughts, about the songs they’d
sing if they were so inclined and had the time.

The world is far, the world is wide, and I will make
my music through the seasons, sing my songs of love
and loss, no matter what may come.  Or so I like to think.
Though in the end I must admit this is just a metaphor.
I don’t really sing very well, I’m hopeless with a guitar.
But it makes me feel less lost to think I can.
So let me serenade you, the imaginary music man.



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